Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, a disorder in
which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues. When someone has
rheumatoid arthritis, the membranes around his or her joints become inflamed
and release enzymes that cause the surrounding cartilage and bone to wear away.
In severe cases, other tissues and body organs also can be affected.
Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis often experience pain,
swelling, and stiffness in their joints, especially those in the hands and
feet. Motion can be limited in the affected joints, curtailing one’s ability to
accomplish even the most basic everyday tasks. About one-quarter of those with
rheumatoid arthritis develop nodules (bumps) that grow under the skin, usually
close to the joints. Fatigue, anemia (low red blood cell count), neck pain, and
dry eyes and mouth can also occur in individuals with the disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis treatment includes medications that slow the progression of joint damage from rheumatoid arthritis. These drugs are called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and they are an important part of an overall treatment plan. What are these drugs, and how do they work?
Disease-modifying drugs act on the immune system to slow the progression of rheumatoid arthritis. This is why they are called "disease-modifying." Many different drugs can be used as DMARDs in the treatment...
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and
Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, it is estimated that about 2.1 million
people in the United States have rheumatoid arthritis. The disease occurs in
all racial and ethnic groups, but affects two to three times as many women as
men. Rheumatoid arthritis is more commonly found in older individuals, although
the disease typically begins in middle age. Children and young adults can also
What Is Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis occurs in children 16 years of
age or younger. Children with severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis may be
candidates for glucocorticoid medication, the use of which has been linked to
bone loss in children as well as adults. Physical activity can be challenging
in children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, since it may cause pain.
Incorporating physical activities recommended by the child’s doctor and a diet
rich in calcium and vitamin D are especially important, so that these children
can build adequate bone mass and reduce the risk of future fracture.